Prominent N.J. sports official who told students Hitler was a ‘good leader’ suspended

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Nutley High athletic director Joe Piro was suspended by the district Monday night following a special meeting to discuss controversial comments he made March 16 describing Adolf Hitler as a “good leader” during an out-of-district presentation, several people at the meeting said.

Piro, one of the most prominent and influential athletic officials in New Jersey, can be reinstated by district superintendent Julie Glazer following completion of a reentry plan, according to a meeting agenda on the district website.

It’s not clear how long Piro’s suspension will last or if he will be reinstated.

Piro and Karen Greco, Nutley’s director of communications, declined comment Tuesday when reached by phone.

Piro was punished nine days after he gave a presentation on leadership to student athletes at Madison High and used Hitler as an example of a “good leader” with “bad moral character and intentions.” During the presentation, Piro showed images of notable leaders, including a picture of Hitler shown side by side with Martin Luther King Jr.

Piro said last week he was trying to “make a point that a leader could have strong leadership skills that influence people in a negative way.”

“The presentation was not to offend anyone in or outside the Madison public school district,” Piro said last week. “I am truly sorry if I did.”

Bloomfield athletic director Steve Jenkins, who attended Monday’s meeting, said several prominent state athletic officials showed up to speak in support of Piro, including recently retired New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Executive Director Steve Timko.

Others who spoke on behalf of Piro included Directors of Athletics Association of New Jersey president Denis Nelson, past DAANJ president Bill Edelman and Madison athletic director Sean Dowling. It was Dowling’s school where Piro made the controversial comments.

“It was an excellent show of support for Joe,” Jenkins said. “I couldn’t help but be troubled because I felt like Nutley never really investigated before they suspended him. I know we’re in this social media era where everything happens so quickly, but I thought last night was premature.”

Piro, 47, is one of the most prominent athletic officials in New Jersey and has been instrumental in shaping some of the state’s most important sports policies. Four years ago, he helped create the Super Football Conference, a 113-team league that spans seven counties and is considered a model for other leagues across the nation. Piro currently serves as SFC president.

NJ Advance Media staff writer Rob Jennings contributed to this report.

Matthew Stanmyre may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MattStanmyre. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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